Many have heard the words of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Often, this verse can get sidetracked as a lesson in faith and belief in God. We tend to shortchange the verse and only use the first section of it. “Train up a child in the way…and he will never depart from it.” In that context, all of a sudden the message is that if you show a child God at a young age, then he will be a Christian for his whole life.
Do you think that is accurate?
I know a plethora of people that grew up in strong Christian homes that exemplify the very opposite of Jesus. But that is not the essence of the verse.
We have to take in the whole verse – “Train up a child in the way he should go.”
This verse is a cry for cultivating a person’s identity and then activating the passions that his identity exudes from his heart. This is a call for training an individual in what makes him come alive because then he will be passionate about the work that God has called him to for the rest of his days.
Christianity and the world have mutually divided this verse through excluding the spiritual from the secular. There currently exists a separation from vocation and spiritual matters in the mindset of not only the world, but the Church as well.
Where do we go when we need to work on our spiritual life? We go to church right? Where will people find the truth of God and be converted? Again, the answer is church, right?
A partnering organization that we work closely with, Kingdom at Work, says it best: “You want to engage non-believers and show them God? No one is forcing you to go to church, but you have to go to work!”
The church is a group of people, not a collection of bricks with a coat of paint on them. It’s easy to forget this and become content with walking through the doors of church and not living as the church. It is much easier to confine our spiritual lives to four walls, rows of pews, and a paid employee whose job description is to talk about God.
My job description doesn’t mention being evangelical, we think to ourselves, so I can continue reaching my quarterly quotas and balancing my corporate budgets and everything will be fine. Everything will be in its proper place.
Unfortunately, what we end up with is a mis-balanced life that is void of any passion or visionary drive to sustain us in the years to come.
When we look to the future, we see burnout, a mundane existence of both our careers and our spiritual lives because the two aren’t married together where passion has the freedom to exist. Where we must go to find God is not a building, it is the person at the water cooler, it is the person that you directly report to at work, it is at a coffee shop when the Wi-Fi goes down and we are forced to stop the grind of work and actually interact with the people around us.
So how does this thought process translate into Narrow Gate Exchange and our hopes for alleviating poverty and making disciples in the world through sustainable Kingdom businesses?
Our training must interact with the passions that God has instilled into our international students. The training must meet them where they are in their hearts and minds. I have talked about the problems of paternalism, where the rich Western developed world benevolently provides their aid and resources to those in need. Where we overstep our bounds and make changes to an area that could have made the change themselves. We can quickly fall into the same trap of paternalism if we train our students in the way that we want them to go, and ignore the hopes and dreams of our unique and individualized international brothers.
The call from God is to train them up in the way they should go…not the way that I want them to go.
As the statistics and research pours in that shows that direct foreign relief does not create sustained change, we must be vigilant that we are not going to simply exchange one faulty platform for another.
Where we disguise paternalism within a mantra of “training.”
Where instead of simply giving a handout to someone in a developing nation, we shift it laterally and give international men training that is based solely in our thoughts and ideals. This is simply a substitution of method for the same negative process. Instead, we must develop relationships where the developed and the developing engage in mutual conversation where we come up with a training system together. Where our international students are involved in every aspect of the planning and implementation of the training that they will receive. Only then will we see true benefit because it will be a harmony of Western and Eastern thought, of higher echelons of theory coupled with practical methods of resolution.
This will produce true effective training that will then be exemplified through actual Kingdom businesses finding success in communities that don’t need relief, but need development.
Narrow Gate Exchange has begun that process as we have created a scaffolding of training. We have vetted our woodworking and sawmilling curriculum through our first Apprenticeship class where two State-side individuals went through our training program for nine weeks. We have learned a lot and have made our shifts so that we can be prepared to train ten international men from four countries for thirteen weeks at our property starting in August.
The training regimen will not be complete until those ten men come and work alongside us as we co-create together the right curriculum and the right practice so that effective training can take place so that lives and communities are changed forever.
Then, the heart, mind, and hands of individuals will find collective passion that will not depart, but will progress for generations to come as the Kingdom of God is built – not by Western benefactors, but by the very men that are neighbors in the communities that are being built. We will train them in the way that they should go, in the way that their hearts and passions and dreams point the way, and because of that, God and economy will not depart from the communities of the world.